Why Girl Off the Beaten Tracks?

Why did I call this blog Girl Off the Beaten Tracks? The places I’ve been to and the things I’m sharing are not exactly “off beaten”.

There’s actually a story to this title.

While I was still working in Singapore, me and a couple of girlfriends from church decided to do a one day trip to Palau Ubin. We took a boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to a small jetty in Palau Ubin. We went around the island by bike and I must say, it was the closest thing to nature trip that I have ever been to. I don’t really do nature trips. I prefer places with “proper” tourist amenities such as working restrooms, paved paths, refreshment stands and a buggy to take you around in case you get tired of walking. It was my first time to bike on uphill and downhill dirt paths. It was my first close encounter with “unrestrained” wild life. Fortunately, it was just a monkey. I would’ve died of fear if it were a wild boar which we were told roam freely in the island.

But the rewards of the grueling bike ride were breathtaking. We saw the bluest lake I’ve ever seen. We walked through the longest boardwalk-on-water I’ve ever been to. By my standards with the places I’ve been to, it was really mother nature at its best for me. I might be exaggerating here but that just goes to show how much of a city person I am. I went home seriously tired and sore. I took 2 muscle relaxant and woke up the following afternoon. It was Sunday and I already missed church service. I  was checking my mobile phone for any decent photos taken during the trip when I felt a sudden burst of inspiration and decided to start a blog about the things I try for the first time. It took a whole afternoon figuring out a name so I decided to edit the photos hoping that would inspire me for a really nice blog name. I came upon a photo of me and my friends biking towards an uphill path, just us girls on the road. Then it hit me: Off the Beaten Paths. Like I would do something like “I go where you don’t go” (read it with sarcasm). But it was catchy. I just added “Girl” since the blog will be all about the things I’ve been doing.

We will always find inspiration in almost anything we do.

A few years went by since that afternoon, I started my blog. Life caught up with me so when life dropped me, I resort to doing the things I’ve been putting off for a very long time. One of it is writing. I still have a long list: a papercutting project, watercolor painting project, editing my “To Be Sorted Out” photos and my adult “keep calm” coloring book.

This blog isn’t going to be about nature walks or trek to Mount Everest. I will definitely fill it with lots with things I’ve been up to and a few travel articles. I have such a huge collection of photos of hotels I’ve stayed at so I might write some useful hotel reviews. Seriously, we need more un-biased people reviewing hotels as I myself rely on this reviews in choosing where to stay in any country I’m going to. And somebody please review the breakfast buffet spreads at hotels. Anything “with breakfast” on their room package better be worth the extra dollars.

So guys, that’s the story behind the story. We will always find inspiration in almost anything we do. Who would’ve thought a trip out of the city can spur something so creative. Or just something. I will always be grateful for that trip. But don’t expect me to do it again.

Note: I will try to look for my photos of this trip and will update this blog post once I find them…Or was it inside the hard disk that went to the ex? Hmm…



Wisdom in Solitude

I was always quiet at work, doing my own thing in my tiny cubicle (which is just a few steps from my boss’s glass encased office–so you know why I stay quiet in my place 80% of the time). From time to time I would go around the production floor tending to my colleagues’s ArchiCAD-related issues (and for some strange reason, even IT-related problems). It would give me an opportunity to interact with them, make small talk and catch up on some  topics that are not work-related. But today, I was more than my 80% of quietness. I stayed in my seat, save for the few minutes I spent in my boss’s office for a quick discussion and that was it.

Solitude has always been my favorite therapy. I’m normally a chatty and highly opinionated person. People like me tend to get too overwhelming for others. But I find that as I get older, I start to prefer quiet and intimate conversations. I prefer silent musings–and my, am I the most talkative person in my head! But really, keeping quiet helps you gain focus. You get to navigate through all those white noises, focus on your thoughts and organize them: How do I want this situation to end? How do I get this situation fix itself? What should I do? Uhm…What should I wear to our Annual Dinner? The questions go on and you find that after being quiet in your thoughts, you have an answer to every single little thing.

My question to myself this afternoon was: What do I want out of my relationship? Jason and I fight like normal couples do and the issues vary from something so mundane to something so significant. I’m not gonna say what we fought about. I’m gonna say how we settled it…quietly. I realize that when you give each other space to vent out the anger separately, you reduce the number of hurtful words you end up saying to each other during a fight. I also realize that sometimes in your anger, you get irrational. Taking time out, helps you rationalize. You get to say why you’re mad/hurt in logical manner–not totally devoid of emotions but less hateful and bitter. In that way, your argument is validated and doesn’t sound petty. Nope, we still end up saying things we will probably regret saying but it wasn’t as bad. At the end of the day, I get to answer my question: I want permanence. I want something that no vows nor any legal documents can hold. And that’s love. Love always win. Not ego. Not pride. Not your own selfish reasons for being in a relationship.

All this we achieve by being with our own selves in solitude. Like what I’m doing now. I’m not really alone, I’m with a laptop and a shot of D.O.M. and for some weird reason, I’m actually enjoying it. Everything that you have read so far are words of wisdom that come from 40% alcohol.

Why This is My Last One (Final Part)

Baby is Out But Not Quite Out Yet

Me and Jason would spend the following days shuttling back and forth the hospital. The time finally came for our tiny preemie to feed on breast milk but it would have to be given to him through a tube going directly inside his stomach. In order for that to happen, I would need to express milk artificially. It was quite difficult without a baby latching on so we asked friends if they know anyone willing to donate or even sell breast milk to augment what little I have. I was overwhelmed by the huge response to our call for help but I settled for two mommies who were willing to share milk.

Our son Joshua stayed in NICU for almost a month. Some of the babies there even longer. Jason had to go back to work a week after Joshua came out so it was quite tough dealing with all of it on my own. For a month my routine would be hospital-home-hospital-home. Inside the hospital, I would go to NICU and check on Joshua’s improvements then to cashier to slowly pay off bills and back again to Joshua to just look at him and touch his hand from time to time. When he was big enough and his tubes were finally removed, I would be there 90% of the time, coming home just to catch some sleep, shower and change clothes. It was very, very tiring. There where times when I cried not because my baby was in the hospital but because I was so exhausted.

Inside the NICU while breastfeeding or lulling Joshua to sleep, I was able to witness a whole range of human emotions and situations that goes on inside the hospital. I witnessed a father losing his wife to aneurysm but gaining a beautiful baby girl in the process. I saw a baby who was forced to stay in the hospital for so long because his young mother couldn’t afford to pay the hospital bills. Then there were two other babies in the NICU. My son wasn’t alone in his struggle to survive. I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

I have two older boys but I hardly had time to check on them. I was really grateful I had a lot of help from my parents and my kids’ nanny. The whole pregnancy also took a toll on our finances but I’m grateful that Jason and I were both gainfully employed at that time and we were able to afford all the hospital expenses. I was also grateful for all our well-meaning friends especially for my good friend Aimee who is a medical doctor herself. I believe she helped us a lot in making well-informed decisions about the whole situation of having an emergency c-section.

The Baby Is Finally Home

After a month of staying at NICU, it was finally time for Joshua Jason to come home. He was still small and fragile when we brought him home. The house has to be spotless and if any of us got a slight sneezing or coughing, we will have to wear mask before we get close to him. He slept for most of the time…and most of the nights. And for that, I’m also truly grateful.

Joshua Jason (1 of 1)
Joshua at 19 months. 

You don’t just carry a child for nine months and give birth. You have to make sure your offspring have everything they need to have a fighting chance in surviving this world.

So Why This Is My Last?

People are so surprised when I tell them I don’t want to have a baby anymore. They look at my boys and say that I must be insane not to try for a baby girl. Well, here are my reasons:

  1. I’m contented. I’m happy with just three kids no matter what their gender is.
  2. We can only afford to give good life to three kids. I’m really practical at this point. Whether we admit it or not, finance is a big factor in having kids. You have to be able to give them a safe environment to live, access to medical facilities, good education and kid-friendly activities they can enjoy from time to time. I don’t believe we’ll be able to do that with four kids. We might just end up short-changing our children with the life they should be having.
  3. I’m not up to it anymore. I’m generally a healthy individual but let’s face it, I’m past 30 and the lifestyle I have as a working mom will not allow me to have another healthy pregnancy. I don’t want to go through the same situation as I have with my youngest. I don’t want to spend my pregnancy in and out of the hospital and I don’t want my child in and out of the hospital either.

Having a child is both a miracle and a responsibility–a really, really huge one. You don’t just have sex and play Russian roulette of getting pregnant or not. If you’re having a baby on the way and still not mentally and emotionally prepared for it, you can be doing harm to yourself and your unborn child. I know any type of contraception is being shunned by the Church so having sex and not having a baby can prove to be quite a challenge for a lot of couples. I believe that it’s each to his or her own conscience and most of all, I believe more in educating people on responsible parenthood. You don’t just carry a child for nine months and give birth. You have to make sure your offspring have everything they need to have a fighting chance in surviving this world.

Note: This is the last part in a 3 part series called Why This is My Last One. You can read the second part here. It had taken quite awhile for me to finish this series, almost two years to be exact. But I remember everything as if they happened a few months ago.

I first had an idea writing about my “final” pregnancy in April 2014. I was constantly being admitted to the hospital and confined to total bed rest due to bleeding that for the last two trimesters of my pregnancy, I feared for mine and my unborn child’s life. I was a relatively healthy adult female with two previous normal childbirths. I never had any complications except for the threatened PLC (Premature Labor Contractions) with my second son which I was able to carry to term. April 2014 was also a milestone for the proponents of the RH Bill or Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health of 2012 (R.A. No. 10354) where the Supreme Court declared the law “constitutional” while striking down 8 provisions as “unconstitutional”. You can read about an update on RH bill on a Rappler article here. I am not Pro-RH Bill nor am I Anti-RH Bill but I am a firm believer of being a responsible parent. Being a responsible parent, I have to make sure I am healthy enough to care for my young sons even if it means giving up on hopes of having a daughter.